Plan For College

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Local Spotlight: Predict Your Future College Experience

Original Title: Predict Your Future College Experience (So You Don't Mess Up Like We Did)

This is the second guest post in the "Local Spotlight" series which highlights college planning initiatives from local high schools and people around Massachusetts. Scott Wilson is a college researcher and the creator of To find out which College Zodiac Animal you are, and to read more about others in the same Animal category as you, visit Here is his article:


Ten years ago I thought I was ready for college. I'd taken AP classes, gotten great grades, and even chosen a reasonably priced state school. And yet today all I have to show for it is a worthless degree and a ball and chain of debt.

I thought I was doing everything right. So where did I and thousands of others like me go wrong?

To figure it out, I spent the last year interviewing recent college graduates, admissions officers, and guidance counselors to see if I could find the mistakes we'd made and if there was a way to help current high school students avoid them.

Everyone I interviewed agreed that certain high school students typically enjoyed more success after college than others. And they weren't necessarily the students who took AP classes or had great grades, they were the students who had: savings to pay for college, certainty about what to study, and real-life experience outside of school.

I used this information to create the College Zodiac, where each combination of the three factors represents a different Zodiac Animal. By reading the stories of graduates in the same Animal category as yourself, you can peek into your potential future:

1. The Unsuspecting Lemming (No savings, certainty, or experience)
Having none of the factors is a recipe for disaster. Allison, an average high school student, graduated college still an average student, and is currently working at Starbucks to pay back her mountain of debt.

2. The Hiding Ostrich (Has experience, but not savings or certainty)
Many students have bad experiences in the real-world, and then go to college as an escape. They rush into things, make poor decisions, and end up even worse-off, like Evan who is $100,000 in debt with a degree he can't use.

3. The Disillusioned Piglet (Has certainty, but not savings or experience)
Simply knowing what you want to do isn't enough if you haven't tried it out in the real-world by shadowing or interning. Betty found this out when she graduated and realized she would've been better off if she'd never gone at all.

4. The Drifting Jellyfish (Has savings, but not certainty or experience)
Even if you have the money to pay for college, you can still waste years of your life if you don't know what your goal is. Gale graduated debt-free but still has absolutely no idea what she wants to do.

5. The Lost Puppy (Has savings and experience, but not certainty)
Not knowing why you're pursuing your goal can be even worse than not knowing what it is. Eileen wasted seven years studying to be a nurse before she found out she hated it.

6. The Exploding Whale (Has savings and certainty, but not experience)
Not having real-life experience can cause even the most prepared student to "explode" partway through college or after. Fred was only in college for one semester until he "exploded" and dropped out.

7. The Noble Lion (Has certainty and experience, but not savings)
Taking out loans isn't always a bad thing. Connor easily paid off his debt because he interned in his field beforehand and knew exactly what he was getting into.

8. Golden Dragon (Has savings, certainty, and experience)
Having all three factors is no absolute guarantee of success, but it certainly helps. Sam discovered his passion before going to college, pursed it as an intern, graduated debt-fee, and is grateful for where college helped him to get today.

Want to learn more? Visit The College Zodiac.
Want to stay up on the latest college planning discussions and resources? Join the Linkedin Group.


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